Going to marriage counseling is a significant investment of time and money. And the last thing anyone wants to do is waste either. So how do you know if you need marriage counseling?
Here are ten things to consider to help you make a wise decision.
Every Marriage Needs Other People Around It To Thrive
Every couple in every season should have another person or couple with access to and the freedom to speak into the issues you and your spouse are having. Every couple. Not just couples in deep conflict. Not just engaged couples in the context of pre-marital counseling. Every couple in every season.
That includes you.
Sometimes this “team” approach to marriage is in response to needing a tune-up. And sometimes, this is in response to a significant issue, hurt, or sinful habit. But your marriage needs other people around it to thrive and to be everything God wants it to be.
This includes close couple friends speaking into your everyday issues. But in my experience, there are very few couple-friend relationships that can do the heavy lifting of counseling when it’s needed.
To be clear, I’m not saying every couple should see a counselor every week or month to be healthy. But I think every couple should have a pre-existing relationship with a counselor to have someone to call when a season of more intense need arises.
Your marriage isn’t broken for needing marriage counseling. Your marriage is normal. And being willing to admit you need some help from time to time is healthy and wise.
Marriage Problems Don’t Go Away On Their Own
Every marriage that has ever existed has experienced problems. The goal isn’t to be problem-free but to deal with your issues well. Dealing with your problems recognizes that they typically don’t go away on their own. They require both parties to confront the problems and work on them together. And sometimes, with a 3rd party.
I can guarantee this: the issues in your marriage will be MUCH easier to untangle and address the earlier you address them. Problems left unaddressed will make your marriage very unstable.
You’ve Been Married For 1-3 Years
If you’ve only been married a few years and your dream marriage has become a nightmare, please schedule an appointment for counseling immediately. Don’t let feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, shame, embarrassment, thoughts of being a failure, or even thoughts of making a mistake stand in the way of reaching out for help. Marriage can sometimes be challenging, but the early years can be even more difficult as you learn to live with someone 24/7.
Establishing a relationship with a trusted counselor is one of the wisest decisions a young couple can make for their marriage.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
The presence of love is the number #1 reason people get married, but the absence of it is the #1 reason people get a divorce.
Maybe there hasn’t been an affair, abuse, or abandonment in your marriage, but you feel distant from your spouse. The spark is gone. Romance has become routine. The excitement has turned to boredom. Your love for each other has faded.
Every marriage will have seasons of love being hot, cold, and everything in between. But if the love has gone cold for an extended period, it might be time to reach out for some help to make sure your season of cold doesn’t turn into an extended season of winter.
Most cold seasons can be turned around with minor tweaks if addressed promptly. But when you expect a hard season to change on its own, it becomes much more challenging to heat things back up.
Recurring Unresolved Conflict
Star and I eat, breathe, sleep, and sweat marriage. We’re marriage nerds. We love marriage books, marriage conferences, podcasts, etc… But as much marriage material as we consume and create, and as many couples as we counsel, we still need outside help occasionally.
Certain issues have continued to cause too much division between us at times. When those inevitable issues and seasons happen, we have a couple and a counselor we call for help. Typically, but not always, 1 or 2 sessions with that couple or counselor result in our eyes being opened in some areas and resolving what was dividing us.
Is there a recurring issue that you and your spouse fight about regularly? If so, please schedule an appointment for marriage counseling.
Regular Or Increasing Feelings Of Aloneness Or Isolation
A feeling of aloneness is plaguing so many individuals. What’s worse is when that aloneness is experienced inside a marriage. The last place on earth you should feel alone is your relationship with your spouse. A husband and wife should pursue one flesh in all areas of their lives. They should be intimate, connected, and one flesh spiritually, emotionally, and physically. One of our primary goals in marriage is to remove our spouse’s aloneness. If you’re experiencing isolation in your marriage, something is wrong.
If you’ve communicated your feelings to your spouse, or if your spouse has communicated their feelings to you and things haven’t improved, it might be time to reach out for help.
Left unchecked, aloneness can slowly turn in to isolation. The earlier you address these feelings, the easier they will be to unpack, unwind, and re-wire.
Trust Has Been Broken
If you or your spouse has broken trust or has a pattern of breaking trust in a substantial area (emotionally, sexually, or financially), please schedule an appointment immediately.
If you’re reading this and have broken trust but have yet to confess it to your spouse, please come in by yourself immediately so we can talk about what to reveal and how to confess it.
How you handle confession, forgiveness, and healing in the early stages of a significant hurt largely predicts your success in working through the betrayal. Be sure to schedule an appointment right away.
You’re Thinking About It
I know I’m biased (since I’m in the business), but if you’re considering marriage counseling, you should probably go ahead and sign up. It’s better to do it when you “don’t need it” instead of not doing it and wishing you did after things progressively worsen.
Most of the highly conflicted couples my team and I see for counseling waited too long to come in. Counseling is much more difficult when there is a significant accumulation of unresolved hurts and deep destructive behavior patterns to untangle.
So if you’re thinking about coming in, sign up now. Marriage counseling is most effective when it’s proactive as opposed to reactive.
You Think You Have What It Takes
Star and I had been dating for about 18 months when we found out we were pregnant. I immediately told her I wanted to get married. I thought, “I got this! How hard can marriage be?” Star wasn’t as ready to tie the knot, but my confidence was convincing. Against the advice of our family and friends, we were married three months later.
Before marriage, I got along with most people, and most people liked me. I was an easygoing, go-with-the-flow type of guy. I made decent grades, did well at sports, and accomplished anything I put my mind to. I considered myself capable and competent.
So naturally, when my marriage started to unravel I pulled up my bootstraps and did what I felt I needed to do to fix it – all on my own. Things would improve for a while, but Star and I would eventually return to our same patterns. That destructive dance led us right up to the cliff of divorce.
Here’s the point. If you think you have what it takes to do marriage the way God designed, you either have the bar set way too low, or you don’t understand what God desires (Rob Reinow). You may be capable and competent and have succeeded in almost everything in life up to this point. But with love, you don’t have what it takes for your marriage to be everything God desires. No one does.
Confidence can deceptively turn into pride which can result in independence. And not only is independence an enemy of intimacy in your marriage, but it can also be a barrier to reaching out for help from someone else when you need it the most.
Your Spouse Is Thinking About It
My wife, Star, begged me to go to counseling for six months before I finally went reluctantly. When I say reluctantly, I only went after my wife moved out and my parents forced me to go to counseling (by myself) in exchange for a place to live. I didn’t think we needed counseling, and I minimized and ignored my wife’s desire to go. That mindset almost destroyed my marriage.
If your spouse thinks you need marriage counseling, there’s a problem. The problem might be with them, or the problem might be with you. Or, the problem might be with both of you (most likely true). But please hear me loud and clear. There IS a problem. If either of you thinks you need marriage counseling, there is an issue that needs to be discussed and unpacked with a 3rd party.
Husband or wife: if your spouse wants marriage counseling, please go with them. Entertain the possibility that they see something you don’t see that you need to see so that your marriage can change.
Marriage Counseling Is Cheap Compared to Divorce
When Star and I started going to marriage counseling together, I was making $10.49/hour. My counselor charged $125/hour (in 1996). Fortunately, I had family that was able to stand in the gap to help me pay for counseling when I couldn’t. I probably wouldn’t have gone if my parents hadn’t paid for it. And it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. Looking back, I would have sold EVERYTHING and done ANYTHING to go to marriage counseling as I consider the marriage and family I now have due to going (click here to Pay It Forward for another couple to attend marriage counseling).
Is going to marriage counseling a significant investment of time and money? Yes. We recommend that a couple see us at least 8-10x to give us a good opportunity to make some positive changes, and our typical rate is between $125-$150 per session. That equates to an investment of $1000 – $1500.
But, considering the average cost of a divorce is $15,600, marriage counseling is a bargain! Not to mention the emotional cost of divorce on you, your spouse, and your kids.
Marriage counseling is an investment, but it is one of the best investments you can make in yourself, your spouse, your marriage, your family, and your legacy.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.